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Sheriff Confirms Suspected Live Round Was Fired During Fatal ‘Rust’ Shooting, Says There Was 'Some Complacency' On Set

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said investigators are still trying to determine how the live round got into the gun that Alec Baldwin fired, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

By Jill Sederstrom
Alec Baldwin Fires Prop Gun On Set, Killing One

The Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has confirmed that Alec Baldwin fired a “suspected live round” during rehearsals on the set of “Rust,” killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza.

According to Mendoza, the bullet was recovered by medical staff from Souza’s shoulder and later turned over the sheriff’s office as evidence in the ongoing investigation into Thursday’s fatal shooting.

“We regard this specific spent casing and recovered projectile to be the live round that was fired from the revolver by Mr. Baldwin,” Mendoza said in a press conference. “We have recovered what we believe to be possible additional live rounds on set.”

While Mendoza declined to comment on what investigators have learned about how the live round got into the gun, he did say investigators have determined that assistant director David Halls and film’s armorer Hannah Guiterrez “handled or inspected the loaded firearm prior to Baldwin firing the weapon.”  

“All three individuals have been cooperative in the investigation and have provided statements,” he said.

During a search of the Bonanza Creek Ranch movie set, investigators seized more than 600 pieces of evidence, including three firearms and approximately 500 rounds of ammunition, which Mendoza described as a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and suspected live ammunition.

Investigators believe two out of the three guns that had been sitting on a cart outside the church building where filming was taking place had not been functional.

The evidence has been sent the FBI’s crime lab in Quantico for further analysis.

Although authorities also seized camera footage from the set, Mendoza said the fatal shooting was not captured on film.

“We are working thoroughly to gather all the facts of the investigation, will continue interviews, and further analyze and process the evidence,” he said. “I want to assure the victims, their families and the public that we conducting a thorough and objective investigation.”

Investigators have already interviewed the “limited amount of movie staff” who witnessed the shooting but Mendoza said they are still working to interview the other approximately 100 cast and crew members on the set that day to learn more about how the shooting may have happened.

District Attorney Mary Carmack Altwies said it was too early to say whether criminal charges would be filed in the case, but noted that “all options are on the table at this point.”

“If the facts and evidence and law support charges, then I will initiate prosecution at that time,” she said. “I am a prosecutor that was elected, in part, because I do not rash decisions and I do not rush to judgement. I rely facts supported by evidence, cooperative and credible witnesses and I cannot stress the importance of allowing the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office to continue with their quality investigation.”

Investigators said in a search warrant obtained by Oxygen.com that before the fatal shooting assistant director David Halls grabbed one of three “prop guns” that had been set up by the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez from a cart outside of a church building where shooting was taking place that afternoon.

Halls delivered the gun to Baldwin, who was rehearsing inside the building and noted during the handoff that it was a “cold gun,” a term used to describe a weapon without any live ammunition.

Souza had been standing next to Hutchins as both peered through the camera lens to assess the angle as Baldwin was rehearsing a “cross draw” of the weapon, pulling the gun out and pointing it at the camera.

“According to Joel it was his belief that the gun being used in the rehearsal was safe and used the term ‘cold gun’ when explaining the firearm safety announcements,” investigators wrote in the search warrant.

Although Souza said “there should never be live rounds whatsoever, near or around the scene,” he wasn’t sure whether the weapon had been checked again after a lunch break.  

Mendoza said authorities were looking into reports that crew members had been firing live rounds on the set before the fatal shooting.

“Obviously I think the industry has had a record recently of being safe,” he said. “I think there was some complacency on this set and I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed by the industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico, but I’ll leave that up to the industry.”

He added that “any time firearms are involved, safety is paramount.”

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